[Update of March 17, 2017–“All For Love: The SuperStar” is a finalist for the 2017 Emma Award for the Best Contemporary Romance Of The Year! The Emma is the premier award for black authors of romance. I am honored and thrilled! My deepest thanks to all who nominated “SuperStar!”]
Chapter One – All For Love: The SuperStar
(Book 2 of The SuperStar Series)
by Raynetta Manees © 2016
YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND
“You better step on it, man,” Sam proclaimed. “If you hadn’t been yakking with Jeff so long about that so-called entertainment “news” show, we would have been there by now.”
“Yeah, Sam, I know,” I answered. “But you know how Jeff is. If I hadn’t cooled him out he would’ve stirred up more crap denying that rumor than the rumor itself. You know how Jeff loves to face-off with the media.”
“Be that as it may…” Sam looked at his watch, “you’re supposed to be there in exactly twenty-one minutes.”
“Okay, I’m coming!” I gave him a big grin. “Chill out, bro, I mean, it’s not like they can start without me.”
“Very funny,” Sam replied, giving me the stank eye in return.
“Hey, Alex,” I called out, “You didn’t forget the extra tip for the old dude at the door, did you? That was some great soul food he got us the other night. I gotta leave him something extra for that!”
“You got that right, Darryl,” Alex agreed. “That food was damn near as good as my Mom’s! Yeah, I went down and hit him up about an hour ago.”
“The food was good,” Sam conceded, “but a thousand dollar tip is a tad extravagant—even for you.”
“Yeah, maybe so, but there’s got to be a reason a guy that old is still working, not retired. Especially working as a doorman, on his feet all day. Whatever his deal is,” I shrugged, “maybe that will help him out a little.”
“Maybe it will, Mr. Generosity,” Sam said with a smile. “Well, before you dole out your entire fortune, let’s get the hell out of here.”
“I’m ready. Alex, call down and let the front desk know that we’re leaving.”
“Already did, about five minutes ago, Dare.”
“Okay, then, let’s bounce.”
Cortez, Jeff, and some of my other guys were waiting for us out in the hallway, along with the hotel’s head security man.
“This way, Mr. Bridges,” the hotel guy said, pointing to a door a ways down the hall.
The door was marked “Staff Only.” We entered, and in that swanky hotel, it was immediately obvious this location was not meant for the public. The walls needed painting and the floor was dusty.
A short walk took us to a huge elevator with a sliding scissor gate instead of a door. As we entered it the hotel guy said, “I think this is the best way for you to dodge that mob out front, Mr. Bridges. This freight elevator will take us to the basement. There’s hardly ever anyone in the basement but hotel staff. From there we can cut over to the staff only underground level of the parking structure. Your car is already there waiting.”
When the elevator stopped Sam looked at his watch and prompted, “We better haul ass, Dare,” so we started to run.
Just as we rounded a corner, Alex, who was slightly ahead of me on the other side of the corridor cried out, “Look out, man!” a second before I ran smack into something soft and shapely.
Instinctively, my arm encircled her waist so she wouldn’t fall. I looked down into the most bewitching chocolate brown eyes I’d ever seen.
“Hey…Wow…I’m really sorry!” I told her. I was concerned; I had run into her really hard. “Are you all right? Did I hurt you?”
“No…no, I’m fine,” she gasped.
“Man!” She had dropped her purse. I looked down at the things that had flown out all over the floor. “Look, let us pick these up. That’s the least I can do after almost sacking…” I turned and really looked at her face for the first time, “you…” My voice trailed off as I saw that those mesmerizing eyes adorned a beautiful heart shaped face. Her flawless skin seemed to glow.
She seemed disoriented. “What’s your hurry? Where’s the fire?” she panted as she looked up at me.
The lovely eyes widened, telling me she realized then who I was. And that’s also when I realized I still had my arm around her. We abruptly stepped apart.
“I’ve got a press conference across town in twenty minutes,” I told her, “although that’s no excuse for knocking a lady down, Miss…?”
“Mrs….Delaney, Angela Delaney.”
Mrs.? I quickly glanced at her left hand. No ring.
“I’m Darryl Bridges,” I said, bracing myself for the eruption that usually followed. But it didn’t come.
Angela just said, “Yes. I know.”
Her quiet, calm reply surprised me. And then I became a little embarrassed. Well, of course, she knows, you jerk, I scolded myself.
By this time Alex had picked up her things and returned her purse.
For some reason, I was mentally fumbling for what to say next. What finally came out was, “Well, I…uh…were you on your way out? Could I drop you somewhere?” We’re already late! What did I say that for?
“No, I’m staying here, at the hotel,” Angela replied. “In fact, I just checked in.” She gave me a playful smile. “Besides, if you get in any bigger rush, the reporters at that press conference will be interviewing a ball of flame.”
Well! So the lady is not only beautiful, she has a sense of humor, too! I started laughing just as Sam said, “Yeah, we’d better light a fire under it, man. You’re due there in fifteen minutes.” He gestured down the hallway. “The limo’s waiting.”
“Yeah, Sam, okay,” I answered, not taking my eyes off Angela. “Are you sure you’re all right?” I asked her once again.
“Positive. But you’d better hurry.” She gave me that whimsical smile once more. “After all, it’s not like they can start without you.”
I laughed again as I turned to go. “Guess you’re right. Well…uh…goodbye.”
We started off again. Just before we disappeared around a corner, something made me turn to wave to Angela. Then I stumbled and would’ve fallen flat on my face if Sam hadn’t stuck out an arm to catch me.
“What’s the deal, boss?” he asked. “You trying out a new dance step, or what?”
I gave him a look. “Yeah, right. No, I just hit an uneven spot in the floor.”
The floor wasn’t uneven, but my heart rate sure was. I’d had ample opportunity to check out Angela’s face and upper hemisphere while we were talking—and did so with great appreciation, I might add.
But once there was some distance between us I was able to check out her lower half. Damn! That woman had the finest big legs I had ever seen in my life. I’m not a “you can never be too thin” devotee. Current fashionistas be damned, I like my women with a little meat on them.
We got to the limo and started out for the press conference.
“That sure was one fine lady,” Alex said with deep appreciation.
“Sure was,” Sam agreed. “Hey, Darryl,” he jabbed me with an elbow. “I bet you’re really regretting the fast pace of your existence right about now, huh?”
The guys started laughing, and I half-heartedly joined them. I didn’t find the situation amusing. I did regret that I couldn’t talk with Angela a bit longer. I also would have liked to get the digits. But how do you try to rap to a woman with an entire entourage breathing down your neck?
Cortez drove like a speed demon, as usual, and we made it to the press conference only five minutes late. Thankfully, the reporters only asked questions I’d answered so many times I could do it in my sleep. I wasn’t thinking very clearly. I kept thinking back to Angela: our brief talk; the sound of her voice; the scent of her perfume; the way she made me laugh; the way she felt in my arms.
After the press conference, we went directly to the airport. The plane was fueled and ready; we left on schedule. After the plane was in flight, I sat looking out the window and almost against my will I found myself thinking once again about Angela.
Calm down, cowboy, I told myself. She’s “Mrs.” Delaney; she’s already taken. But the second she said “Mrs.” I had glanced down at her hands. She wasn’t wearing a ring. I’d never known a married woman to not wear her wedding ring. So what was up with Angela? Was she divorced? Separated?
I realized then why I had so illogically asked if she needed a lift. My subconscious was searching for some way to spend more time with her.
Damn it, I sure wish I had been able to get her number. There’s something really different about her. Sure, she was foxy as hell. And like any other man I had my personal preferences, certain physical characteristics in a woman that strongly aroused my…er…curiosity. Angela’s pretty face, tasty figure, and killer legs had sure done that. But I was surrounded by beautiful women all the time. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew it wasn’t just her looks that had me intrigued.
I interact with people all over the world, yet in five minutes this woman has fascinated me to the point where I can’t get her out of my head. All I know is her name but thank goodness I do know her whole name. “Angela” and “Delaney” are not unusual, but I think if I put the action squad on it they could track her down from even just that.
Then it hit me: what the hell am I thinking? She told me she had just checked into the hotel. She’s a guest at the hotel! And I know her full name. All I have to do is just call the hotel and ask for her!
I pretended to yawn and stood up. “Think I’ll step into the bedroom and grab a few winks.”
Sam looked up in surprise. “You must have slept 10 hours straight last night. You’ve been hitting it so hard with the concerts and all that I didn’t bug you so you could catch up on some Zs. And you’re still sleepy? That’s not like you.”
“Well…ah…we all slow down after a while, partner. I’m not getting any younger, you know.”
“Slow down? Look here, my man, the last time I looked I was fifteen years older than you and I’m not slowing down yet. When I start getting old, I’ll let you know. That way you can start prepping for it.”
The rest of the guys thought this was hilarious, and started cracking up.
“Yeah, well, suppose you just let me worry about my own ‘sell by’ date, okay?” I told Sam as I went into the bedroom and closed the door.
Should I call her? But maybe she’ll think I’m just a stuck-up, horny celebrity who thinks every woman he meets wants to jump his bones.
I sighed. Well, I answered myself, don’t look now, fella, but just about every woman you meet does want to jump your bones.
Which was true, but I didn’t fool myself into thinking I was Hercules. I did have a lot to offer a woman, but most women who approached me didn’t really want me, anyway. How could they truly want me when they didn’t even know me? What they wanted was what they thought was me—my performance persona. And there was a huge difference.
Okay, stop it. If you don’t stop this interior dialogue, you’re going to wind up schizophrenic. Stop making a big production out of it and just call the woman.
I pulled out my cell. The hotel’s number was already in my contact list. When the operator answered, I tentatively asked for Angela, raising the pitch of my voice a bit to prevent the operator from recognizing it. That wasn’t very likely, but given that I had just been there and had personally spoken to a number of the staff, there was the outside chance that she would.
Nope, no problem. She just said, “Certainly. Just a moment, sir.”
The connection started to ring, and after a few seconds, a woman’s voice said, “Hello?”
It was her! Okay, slick, you’ve gotten this far. How do you start this conversation? I decided to just “keep it simple, stupid”: “Hello? May I speak to Angela?”
“This is she,” Angela acknowledged off hand.
Go for it, dude. “Hi…uh…this is Darryl Bridges.”
After a few beats, I asked, “Are you still there?”
“Yes…uh…I’m still here. I’m…I’m just so surprised…”
Maybe this wasn’t such a hot idea after all. I cleared my throat. “I probably shouldn’t have called out of the blue like this…If it’s a bad time…”
“No…oh, no, Darryl,” she quickly replied. “It’s not a bad time at all. Excuse me, I was so startled you were calling I forgot my manners. How are you?”
Whew; now that’s better. “Just fine, thanks. Listen, I had to see if you were all right after having me tackle you this afternoon.” Despite my best efforts, there was a small quiver in my voice.
“Right as rain. It’s really thoughtful of you to call.” Her voice was a warm, mellow alto, very feminine and I found it—I gotta own up to it—so sexy.
“No problem. Sorry to just run off like that. Sometimes my schedule is tighter than a new shoe.”
“I can imagine. I heard you have a concert tomorrow in Miami?”
“Right. We’re on the way there now.”
“You’re driving down?”
“No, flying.” I glanced out the window; it was twilight. “Can’t see much, but I think we’re close to Orlando right now.”
“It must be exciting…traveling all over the world.”
“It can be, but it can get old, especially when I’m near the end of a long tour, like now.” I wanted to learn more about her, not rattle on about myself, so then I asked, “Do you travel much?”
“I travel a fair amount for my job, although most of my business trips are a lot closer to home than Atlanta.”
Now we were getting somewhere. “Where’s home?”
“Lansing…Lansing…” I had to think a moment, then remembered. “That’s the state capital, right?”
“Yes. You know your geography,” she said, and I could hear that tempting smile in her voice. “But then, I guess you would.”
I chuckled at that. “Yeah, I do roam around a bit.”
Now for what I wanted to know most. “You live in Lansing with your…uh…family?”
“Most of my family lives in Detroit. I moved to Lansing two years ago for a promotion. But my daughter Tiffani lives with me.”
“Just your daughter? No Mr. Delaney? You’re divorced?”
Oh, no. That had never occurred to me. God only knew what painful memories I had dredged up with my question. “Oh…” I managed to get out. “I’d noticed you weren’t wearing a wedding ring. I’m sorry. Was…was it recent?”
“No, it’s been sixteen years now,” she hurriedly replied, then changed the subject. “But enough about me. Where are you going after Miami?”
She didn’t seem upset by my question, I assumed because time had softened the blow. But I picked up that for some reason she didn’t want to talk about it.
So I left it alone and we started talking about my tour. From there the conversation went on to travel in general, and California, where I live, when she told me she had never been there.
Angela was so easy to talk to. Most people react to me in one of two ways. They either get way too chummy and start asking personal questions, or they practically bow at my feet like I was the King of Siam. Angela did neither. She simply treated me like a guy she’d just met and happened to enjoy talking to.
Angela was a charming, intelligent woman with a great sense of humor. I hadn’t had such a natural, normal conversation with a woman in a real long time. I enjoyed talking to her so much I totally lost track of time. We wound up talking almost an hour.
There was a rap at the door and Alex stuck his head inside. I quickly hit the mute button.
“Hey, Dare, we’ll be landing in a half hour or so,” he said, “and… Oh, I didn’t know you were on the phone. Sorry.” He quickly left and closed the door behind him.
Turning back to the phone, I said, “We’re about to land, guess I’d better get ready. It’s been really great talking to you.”
Well, here goes: “Would…would you mind if I call you again sometime?”
“No, of course not, Darryl,” Angela answered. She gave me her telephone numbers. “I’ll look forward to hearing from you,” she added.
Not half as much as I’m looking forward to talking to you, pretty lady! “Fantastic!” I said aloud. “Well, gotta run. Talk to you soon.”
Eager as I was to talk to Angela again, I knew from past experience it was best to follow my established protocol. Angela seemed like a well-grounded person, but I’d been mistaken about people in the past. Bad as I wanted to talk to her, I knew I had to have the squad check her out before I dared.
I decided to get that ball rolling right then and called Mary.
“Hey, Mary, it’s me.”
“Hi, Darryl. How’s it going?”
“Fine. Everything is running according to schedule. Mary, I’ve got a job for the squad. Someone I need them to check out for me.”
“Okay, Darryl, what’s his name?”
“Uh, it’s not a ‘he,’ Mary.”
“Oh, really? Okay, then, what’s her name?”
“Her name is Angela Delaney, and she’s a black woman in, ah, I’d say her late twenties. She’s currently a guest at the hotel we just left in Atlanta; her company is having a conference there. She lives in Lansing, Michigan. She’s widowed and she has a daughter named Tiffani. That’s about all I know about her.”
“Except that she’s pretty.”
“Excuse me?” I tried to act annoyed, but I knew Mary wouldn’t buy it.
“I said, Darryl,” she patiently and pointedly repeated, ” ‘Except that she’s pretty.’ She is pretty, isn’t she, Dare?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at Mary’s barely veiled, completely accurate deduction. “Yes, Ms. McCoy, she’s pretty.”
“Good. About time.”
“And, as I said,” I ignored Mary’s comment, “that’s about all I know about her.”
“Well, that’s quite a bit. They shouldn’t have any trouble finding her with that much information.”
“I’d like a report as soon as possible, Mary. Tell them to rush it; this is a top priority. And Mary, let’s keep this just between us, huh?”
“You got it, boss. I’ll get them on it right away. Anything else?”
“No, that’s it for now. Any new haps on your end I should know about?”
“Well, the Homes, USA people called. They’ve finished the video you requested for Carnegie Hall.”
Homes, USA was an organization founded a few years before by celebrities to help the homeless nationwide. I had been named that year’s chairman.
My upcoming Carnegie Hall concert would be televised worldwide, and the expected viewership was over a billion. I couldn’t miss this opportunity to give the organization some much-needed publicity. The video would be shown during the sign-off of the concert.
“Great. Make sure it gets to the station’s production staff with my instructions as soon as possible.”
“Will do. Okay, Dare, take care. Talk to you tomorrow. Hey, try to get some rest.”
“Definitely. After the concert here tomorrow, and Carnegie Hall in a few days, of course, we’ll be taking off for the overseas leg of the tour. Won’t be much time for resting once that gets started.”
After hanging up with Mary, I picked up the remote and clicked on the tube, thinking I would check out the news.
“And now,” the television blared, “back to our movie, ‘Cycle of Pain,’ starring the late, great Tonya Carol, who…”
I quickly snapped off the TV but I’d already heard. I sat there in the gloom of the now dim room, fighting off memories.
“He’s right in here, Mrs. Bridges,” Alex said, opening the door.
“Hi, Mama.” I stood to guide her to one of the plush chairs all about the dressing room.
“Hello, honey,” she said, kissing me on the cheek. “Well, this is certainly a red letter day for the Bridges family!” She settled into the chair. “We performed here about fifteen or so years ago, and tonight my baby boy is making his debut in Carnegie Hall all on his own! The family is getting settled in our box, Dare. They’ll be back to see you after the program, but I just couldn’t wait to say hello.”
“How is everybody, Mama?”
“Oh, just fine, dear. We’ve received an offer to do a Christmas television special. Your father is all for it, and so are some of your brothers and sisters, but I’m still on the fence. I mean, it’s been over ten years since we sang as a family group.”
“Well, Mama, the group’s record sales are still thriving, and you, Madame, are quote, ‘one of the greatest gospel singers of all time,’ unquote. The greatest, in my humble opinion.” I gave her a deep bow. “The world would love to hear you guys one more time,” I went on. “And there couldn’t be a better time than Christmas for a reunion show.”
“Honey, if we decide to do it, would you sing with us? You never have, you know. You were the baby and too young to sing with us at first. Then when you got old enough, you didn’t want to. You said you were too shy.” She paused to look around the opulent dressing room. “You seem to have gotten over that shyness quite thoroughly,” she added with a good-humored smile.
“If you do it,” she gave me a tongue-in-cheek glance, “I just might finally forgive you for going into popular music.”
I tried to look stern. “You’re not fooling anybody, Sylvia Bridges.” I grinned at her then. “I know you got over that a long time ago.”
The television, which had been playing more or less in the background, suddenly increased in volume as an entertainment news show came on.
“Entertainment history is being made this evening,” the show’s host said. “International pop superstar Darryl Bridges will be performing tonight at Carnegie Hall!”
I started toward the television. “Just a sec. Let me turn this junk off, Mom.”
“No, baby, leave it on. I’m curious what they say about you.” So I took the seat next to hers.
“It’s been sixteen years since Darryl Bridges began his pop music career,” the host was continuing. “Rumor has it his family, the world famous Bridges Family gospel singers, were not too crazy about his choice at the time. But sources tell me the entire family is in attendance at Carnegie Hall to watch the youngest Bridges’ first performance on the prestigious stage. So it seems they’ve now come to accept his decision.”
“Ya think?” I challenged.
Mama had to laugh in spite of herself. “Now that’s not nice, son.”
“Darryl Bridges,” the guy went on, “considered by many to be the most famous person on earth, earned his nickname, ‘The Wizard,’ with his quadruple talents: singing, dancing, playing God knows how many instruments, and composing most of his own material.
“Well,” the program’s female co-host put in, “that man could have a show in Timbuktu, and I’d want a front row seat. Darryl Bridges has talent by the carload, but those dynamite looks sure don’t hurt. Tall, slender, nicely muscled, broad shoulders, black curly hair, and a face like a male angel. And don’t forget those spellbinding coal black eyes. Darryl Bridges is the most popular entertainer in the world, and he’s got my vote for also being the most handsome as well!”
“You darn skippy!” co-signed my non-cursing Mom.
Now it was my turn to laugh. “Mama, I think your opinion on that may be a tad biased.”
“Well, of course, it is, son.” She stood, and kissed me on the forehead. “And it’s supposed to be,” she gave me a wink. “I’m your mother. We’ll meet you back here after the show, honey. We’re praying for you. Break a leg!” she said and was gone.
Carnegie Hall was a huge success, getting rave reviews, thank God. I was happy but glad to have it behind me.
I looked out the window. Flying over the ocean is so boring. Nothing but water, water, and more water as far as the eye could see. The book I was reading was interesting, but I’d been doing so much reading lately that I was beginning to feel like a thesaurus. My cell rang and I picked it up, not really caring who it was, grateful for something to break the monotony.
“Hey, Darryl, how goes it?”
“Boring as hell, Mary.”
“I have something that just might perk you up.”
“I doubt it.”
“Aren’t you curious as to why I called on your cell, rather than through the plane’s phone system?”
“I hadn’t really thought about it. But since you bring it up, why are you calling me on my cell rather than through the plane’s phone system, Ms. McCoy?”
“Well, Dare, you told me this was just between us, so I thought calling you directly might be a bit more discreet.”
That did make me sit up straight. “You got it? The report, I mean.”
“Sure do. The squad gave it to me not ten minutes ago. I called to let you know I’m about to email it to you.”
“Mary, you are an angel.”
“I know. Talk to you soon.”
I was alone. I had come up toward the front of the plane to read in peace. The guys were in the back, raising a ruckus playing bid whist. I went into the bedroom, closed the door, and locked it. Just as I did my cell buzzed, letting me know I had an email waiting. I pulled it up and eagerly read the information.
Okay, she has a daughter, Tiffani. I knew that. What? Tiffani is how old? Eighteen? Well then, how old is Angela? She’s thirty-seven? Man, she looks four years younger than me, not four years older! Husband Robert killed in a car accident. Finished college nights while working. Yes, she told me about the promotion. Wow, she got a big time award from her company while she was in Atlanta; impressive. No criminal record, well, that’s no surprise. Good credit rating.
As I continued reading the report, I discovered that Angela was exactly who she seemed to be—and more.
That was all I needed to know. I had already programmed Angela’s numbers into my phone. I punched up her home number.
“Yeah, it’s me. How are you?”
Oh, damn! In my eagerness to talk to her, I had forgotten all about the time difference. It was almost midnight, her time. “Hey, did I wake you up? I’m sorry. I ought to have better sense about making calls to other time zones by now.”
“No, Dare, I wasn’t asleep. Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve read some people call you ‘Dare’—or do you prefer Darryl?”
Um-Hum!…I wasn’t the only curious one. She’s been doing a little checking up on me, too.
“Either one’s okay,” I said aloud. “They both beat ‘Dare-All’, or ‘Burning Bridges’—although I kinda like ‘The Wizard.’ ”
“I’ve seen those handles in print, but does anyone ever really call you that?”
“Yep—when I’m not around. The press treat me like Mr. Wonderful during an interview, but sometimes afterward even I don’t recognize the ‘quotes,’ or the crazy names they call me.”
“That couldn’t be easy to take.”
“No, it isn’t, but I’ve learned the best thing to do is just ignore it.” I didn’t want to monopolize the conversation, especially talking about that stuff. “But I won’t bore you with my problems,” I said then. “What have you been up to lately?”
We talked for over two hours. At last, she said, “Dare, I love talking to you, but if I don’t get a little shut-eye, I’ll fall asleep at my desk.”
“Sure, Angie. Listen, I’m sorry about calling so late. Next time it’ll be earlier.”
“It’s great to hear from you anytime.”
“You’d better watch what you say, lady. I’m known to be a dangerous man with a phone in my hand.”
She had such a wonderful laugh. “Well, Mr. Bridges, I’m no slouch with a phone myself. I think I can handle it.”
Now she had me laughing again. “Well, I’d better let you get some rest. Talk to you soon. Write me!”
“I will. Goodnight.”
I began to call her regularly. At first, it was every week or so, but the frequency of the calls rapidly increased. Touring is always rough, and I truly looked forward to my talks with Angela. It was like taking a bit of home along with me. I’d call her from all over—Athens, Berlin, Paris—wherever I happened to be.
I gave her my cell phone number and my 800 number answering service, so she could reach me wherever I was, and I was a little disappointed when Angela never called me. At first, I wondered why; maybe she didn’t enjoy our talks as much as I did? I almost asked her why she didn’t call, but since she always seemed happy to hear from me when I called her, I didn’t worry about it.
She didn’t call, but she did write. I’d given her my private email address. No one else had access to it, not even Mary. It got to the point she’d write me once or twice a week; sometimes just a note, but often it was a long letter. And she sent me some funny e-cards that really brightened my day.
The calls and emails went on for three months. Sometimes we’d talk for hours. We talked so often about so many things, it felt as though I really knew her, although we’d met just the one time.
We talked about almost every subject: world politics; people; music extensively—and our families, our childhoods.
Angela was the middle child, with an older brother and a younger sister. They were both married and had children. No, that’s not quite right; her brother had children, but her sister had only one child, like Angela. As she had already told me, her mother and siblings lived in Detroit. Her dad had passed away some dozen years before.
She never talked about her late husband, Robert. From the report, I’d picked up that they had married only seven months before Tiffani was born, so I knew what the deal was there. Was that the problem? Had she not really been in love with him, and just felt she had to marry him because she was pregnant? If their marriage had been a happy one I knew she would have talked about it. So something had gone wrong. I was curious but didn’t feel we were close enough—yet—for me to ask about him.
And there was one additional topic we didn’t talk about—the romantic sides of our lives. Angela didn’t say anything about a boyfriend. With her looks and personality, no way was there a shortage of interested men. But I felt if Angela wanted to talk about her love-life—if she had one—or had questions about mine, she’d say so. She never did.
Which was just as well, because other than the odd brief contact here and there, I didn’t have anything on that score to talk about…not since Tonya.
Tonya Carol: the beautiful, talented actress admired by movie audiences all around the world. We had met at an awards program. Being in the business, she had access to a lot of inside resources, but I was still flabbergasted when she somehow got her hands on my private cell number and called, asking me over for dinner.
Things progressed pretty quickly from there. A few people knew something was going on between us, but even they didn’t know the degree of our involvement.
Tonya was wonderful. She was so full of life, a bit wild, actually, although I reluctantly realized her wildness was one of the things that attracted me to her. Right after we started seeing each other she was on location in Paris, and on a dare, walked down the Champs-Élysées topless. She was so charming she even sweet-talked the gendarmes out of arresting her.
But despite her beauty and talent, she was so insecure, so afraid of failure. At times I felt more like her father than her lover because she was so dependent on my reassurances and support.
I knew Tonya loved me, and I loved her, too, but as she grew more and more unpredictable I had doubts about our future. Her erratic behavior, instead of getting better with time, only got worse. I finally I found out why. She was using cocaine. But she had hidden it from me until it was…too late.
I found out she turned to drugs only once in a while at first, for the false courage it gave her. But it quickly reached the point where she couldn’t even step in front of the camera unless she was high.
Her agent got her hooked and supplied her with the stuff. They had to pull me off him when I found out, otherwise, God forgive me, I might have killed him. Jeff, my PR man, saw that the fight got hushed up.
Because I loved Tonya so much I couldn’t just give up on her. Although I didn’t mean it, I told her we were through unless she went into rehab. She promised me she would.
And she almost made it. She had to finish her current movie before she could report to rehab. She promised me she’d go cold turkey until the movie was finished. But just as she was down to only a handful of scenes left to complete, she was found dead in her dressing room minutes before she was due on the set—dead of a cocaine overdose.
I felt so guilty, so responsible. I should have realized she was using sooner. I should have demanded she go into rehab immediately. Of course, I couldn’t tell Angela any of this.
Talking to Angela helped to make the constant travel and the unfamiliar surroundings of touring bearable. But still, this tour seemed endless. I finally understood why. I wanted to get home. I wanted to see Angela. I wanted to spend some time with her, to see if the connection we’d forged long distance would hold up in person.
We were finally en route home, headed for Los Angeles. LA was also the final stop of the tour. Originally I had planned a short vacation in Rio, the last overseas stop, before heading home, but then I had decided to make the LA concert a charity event for Homes, USA. With the needed changes in the program, some problems came up with the stage set-up. I decided to check them out in person. Besides, although I certainly could have used a vacation, it was more important to get back to the States—to see Angela.
We landed in LA in the middle the night on a Sunday. I hadn’t told Angela that I was on my way home. And I also hadn’t told her about my brilliant idea.
It was heavenly to sleep in my own bed after such a long time away. But I was up and out early the next morning, eager to put my plan into motion.
“Hi, Angie. It’s Dare.”
“Dare, where in the world are you? That sounds like the ocean in the background.”
“No such luck—just a lousy connection. I’m in LA, at the Coliseum.”
“LA? I thought you weren’t going there for the concert until later in the week.”
“I wasn’t, but there were some problems with the stage set-up, and I thought I’d better check them out personally.” I took a deep breath. “Listen, I just had a brilliant idea.”
“Wiz, all your ideas are brilliant.”
“Flattery, my dear, will get you anything,” I paused, “including a trip to LA.”
“Didn’t you tell me you’d never been to one of my concerts?”
“That’s right. I haven’t—to my lasting regret.”
Here goes. “Well…would…would you like to come out for this one?”
“Out? Where? To Los Angeles?”
“Yeah. Can you get away for a few days?”
“Well, sure, but…”
“Look, my staff will take care of everything—the travel and hotel arrangements—everything. And, of course, you’ll be my guest.”
I had considered and frankly would have preferred, inviting her to stay at my house. But then decided despite our long distance connection, she might be reluctant to be the houseguest of a man she’d only met once. I reasoned she’d probably feel more in control of the situation at a hotel—and therefore more likely to come.
She was silent for a moment, then asked, “Darryl, are you serious?”
“I’ve never been more serious.” I was almost whispering now. “We’ve become such good friends through emails and over the phone. It would mean a lot to me if you’d come…Will you?”
“I…don’t know what to say…” she stammered.
I was relieved; she was obviously considering it! I hadn’t been sure that she would. A lot of other women would have jumped at the chance. But Angela wasn’t like a lot of other women.
“Now, I can help you out there,” I prompted. “Just say, ‘Yes, Darryl, I’d love to come. Thank you for inviting me.’ ” I held my breath.
She rewarded me with that delightful laugh. “All right, then. ‘Yes, Darryl, I’d love to come. Thank you for inviting me.’ ”
I released my breath with a grateful sigh. “Great! Look, they’re waiting for me, but I’ll call you tomorrow with the details, okay?”
“Okay,” she said, sounding a little strange.
My voice became muted once more, “I’m really glad you’re coming. Talk to you tomorrow.”
“Okay,” she repeated, sounding even stranger.
I was overjoyed Angela had agreed to come. Yet there was something in her tone as we were hanging up…
“Hey, Darryl…” Alex came to the dressing room door just as I was saying goodbye to Angela. “What up? The crew has… Oh…sorry, I didn’t realize you were on the phone,” he said, turning to leave.
“It’s okay, Alex. I was just ending the call.”
“Hey, the crew is together, ready for rehearsal.”
“Huh? Oh, right. Tell them I’ll be right there.”
“Okay, Dare,” Alex said, looking at me curiously.
Telling myself my misgivings about Angela were just my imagination, I hurried to rehearsal. When I stepped on stage both Sam and Alex were looking at me strangely. I was never late for rehearsals and normally a phone call wouldn’t delay me unless it was of the utmost importance. On top of that, I’m sure they’d both noticed I’d been spending a lot of time on the phone lately.
Alex Winston had been with me only two years, but Sam Steele had been my chief of security for over ten. He knew me like a brother. I could tell from the look in his eyes he knew something was up with all these mysterious private calls.
But neither of them said a word. They were my staff, my employees, but they were also my friends; in fact, they were among the best of the few friends I had. One of the reasons they were both staff and friends was that they respected my privacy. They appreciated the goldfish bowl aspects of my life, and they knew how problematic that was for me at times. So when it came to something I obviously didn’t want to share with them, they knew not to pry.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” I told my performance group. “We’re going to basically stick with the same set list from the last show, except that I want to substitute ‘Basic Needs’ for ‘Never Before.’ ”
They looked at each other strangely.
“But, boss, you haven’t done ‘Basic Needs’ this whole tour,” said my bass guitarist, Jesse.
“I know, Jesse, so that’s why I want to include it in this, the last show of the tour,” I said.
Which wasn’t the real reason. The real reason was that Angela had told me it was one of her favorites.
“What’s the problem?” I continued. “I mean you guys haven’t forgotten it, have you?” I teased them with a grin.
Siggy, my drummer, grinned back at me. “No, of course not, Dare. We were just surprised is all.”
Since we hadn’t done the song in a while we went through it twice. I saw Jasmine sitting in the wings pouting, probably because I didn’t use dancers when performing this number.
After a long day of sound checks and rehearsals, I was glad to get home. I had a quick dinner and hit the sack, still recovering for the rigors of the tour.
I slept until noon, and had a leisurely brunch, just killing time until I knew Angela would be home from work. I couldn’t wait to talk to her.
“Hi!” I said once I got her on the line.
“Hi.” This didn’t sound like the vivacious woman I had been talking to the last several months.
“Yes, I know,” she said in the same lackluster tone. Maybe my misgivings of the day before had not been just my imagination, after all.
“Why so glum? Is something wrong? Are you and Tiffani all right?”
“Yes, Dare, we’re fine.”
“You haven’t changed your mind about coming out for the concert, have you?” I persisted. God, I hoped not. Yet I knew something about coming to LA was bothering her.
Thank goodness for that! “Okay….so…what up? I can tell something about this is bothering you. Talk to me.”
“Well, it’s just that…”
“Yes? It’s just that…what?”
“It’s nothing, Darryl. It’s just that…well…I’m kinda…nervous about it.”
“Why? I’m not nervous about it.” No, that wasn’t quite true. “Well, maybe just a little bit,” I amended. “I guess under the circumstances, any two people would be a little nervous. But why are you this upset?”
“Because…because…well, Darryl…I’m a thirty-seven-year-old woman with a grown daughter—and I’m certainly no starlet.”
That gave me a big clue as to the difficulty. “Why is that a problem?” I thought maybe I could kid her out of it. “You think you’re ugly or something?”
“Darryl, please don’t tease me. I’m serious.”
“Okay, okay; I know you are. I’m sorry.” I backed off the humor. “But, Angie, believe me, you’re getting yourself worked up over nothing.”
“It’s not ‘nothing’ to me, Dare.”
“So I see.” I hesitated a moment. “Angela,” I said very slowly, “believe me, your looks are the kind many a starlet would kill for: long black hair; a truly beautiful face; a lovely figure and great legs. What’s not to like?
“Besides, you’ve got a lot more going for you than just good looks. After all, how many people can be “Innovator of the Year” with only two years on a new job?”
There was a dead silence on the other end of the line.
After a beat or two, I said, “Angela? Are you okay?”
“Darryl,” she said slowly and deliberately, “I never told you about that award. How did you know?”
Uh-oh. I had blown my cover. Time to ‘fess up. “Oh…right. Well, I…uh…now don’t get mad. Let me explain…”
Then she put two and two together. “You’ve had me investigated!”
“I don’t believe it! You had me investigated! How could you! How dare you!”
“Now, Angie, give me a chance to explain!”
But she wasn’t having it. “Darryl, why didn’t you just ask me anything you wanted to know? Did you think I’d have lied to you? After all the hours we’ve talked, all the thoughts we’ve shared, didn’t you trust me at all?”
At that point, it was clear to me that Angela had some James Brown in her. James famously once said, “Papa don’t take no mess!” Well, Angela didn’t either.
“It’s not like that, Angela! Listen to me…”
She didn’t answer me. There had been many times I had started to tell her about the investigation. Now I definitely wished I had.
She was still giving me the silent treatment. “Please; just listen to me,” I pleaded with her. “Be fair. Don’t condemn me without knowing all the facts.”
“Fine, Darryl superstar ‘Mr. Wizard’ Bridges,” she shot back. “Go ahead; I’m listening.”
Now that was uncalled for. I started to get a little hot under the collar myself.
“Okay, Angela,” I said quietly. “We’re even now. I insulted you; now you’ve insulted me. Feel better?”
“What do you mean—I’ve insulted you?” she sharply came back.
“Calling me Darryl Bridges ‘superstar.’ You know we’ve never related to each other that way. We’re friends. Good friends, I thought. I have a hundred million fans, Angela, but I have very few friends. I’ve never come on to you like you were ‘just a fan,’ and you know it. I didn’t deserve that.”
I knew I should have come clean before. Yes, I was wrong, but now she was wrong to accuse me of going VIP on her. And I did have a valid reason for doing what I did—if Angela would ever let me get it in edgewise.
“Friends?” she repeated. “How can you say that when you had me investigated. You did, didn’t you?”
She was clearly still ticked off, but by that point, I was rather ticked off myself.
“Yes, I did.”
“Well, is that the way one friend treats another?”
“No, it isn’t. And I never would have after I got to know you.”
That slowed her down a little. “I don’t understand.”
“I know you don’t. Now, will you listen?”
“All right,” she grudgingly said, “go ahead.”
“After I called you in Atlanta,” I began, “I wanted to talk to you again—but I had to make sure. You have no idea the kinds of hassles I’ve had dealing with people. I’ve been receiving death threats for years. I’ve had nine paternity suits filed against me, seven of them by women I never even met.” I anticipated the question. “And before you ask, no, the other two weren’t valid either.
“Maybe I’ve gotten paranoid, but I’ve had so much turmoil come from the most innocent contact—especially with women—that I’ve had to be cautious about the simplest things, like picking up a phone and calling someone.”
My irritation was subsiding. She had every right to be upset; how could I be mad at her? I took a deep breath and slowed it down.
“So I had my staff check you out after I called that first time. That’s how I found out about the award. I was just trying to find out if it was safe to call you, or if you’d go screaming to the press with some wild story about you and me.
“No, a friend wouldn’t do that to a friend. That’s why I would never do that now—now that I know the kind of person you are. But then I didn’t. Now, do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand…now,” a contrite Angela said. “Darryl…I’m sorry I flew off the handle like that.”
“Hey, it’s all right.” All my exasperation had dissipated, as well. “I can dig why you did. In your shoes, I guess I’d feel the same. I’m glad it’s finally out in the open. I’ve been feeling bad about not telling you before. I should have, but I didn’t want you to be angry with me or, worse, to not trust me.”
“I’m sorry about what I said. I didn’t mean it. Forgive me.”
“There’s nothing to forgive. At least what you said was honest. What I did was dishonest…at least not telling you before now was. Do you forgive me?”
“Of course…I guess we’d both better ‘Step Lively’ and apologize, huh?” “Step Lively”; one of my biggest hits.
I laughed, happy to see that my sweet, funny Angela had returned. “Yeah, now that we’re friends, I want us to ‘Stay That Way.’ ” Another hit.
“Okay, Mr. B., enough with the record plugs. I already have all your CDs.”
She could always make me laugh. But then I had to get very serious. “Angie, I value your friendship, and I’d never do anything to hurt you, please believe that.”
“I do, Dare.”
“Well, one purpose was served. Now you don’t have to feel nervous about coming. I already know quite a lot about you, Angela, and I like all I see. And as for the ‘starlet’ angle….” I found myself whispering again, “I don’t know why you’d ever be concerned. You’re a very beautiful woman.
“Anyway,” I forced myself to get back on track, “we’re really friends now. We’ve had our first argument!”
“Yeah,” Angela agreed with a laugh, “I guess you’re right.”
“Angela, you’re an extremely sweet person, and it takes a lot to get you there, but, man! Do you have a temper when you get mad! Remind me not to ever make you mad again!”
We started to talk about her trip to the coast. We decided she’d arrive on Friday morning and stay until Sunday. I told her I’d keep Saturday open, and show her around the city. I also told her someone would call her after all the arrangements had been made.
“I won’t be able to meet you at the airport personally,” I said. “I’ll probably already be at the Coliseum, and anyway, if somebody at the airport were to recognize me, it could get pretty hairy. But I’ll make sure you’re met by a car and driver.”
“There’s no need, Darryl. I could take a taxi and…”
“No, ma’am. I’m not about to let you loose on poor defenseless Los Angeles. I’ll have somebody meet you.”
“Darryl,” she said, sounding shy, “I’m really looking forward to this.”
“Me, too. And I’m looking forward to having one of our marathon discussions in person, being able to see you. I like to watch a person’s eyes when we’re talking.”
“Is that why you wear dark glasses all the time, so you can watch, and people can’t see you watching?”
She caught me off guard with that one. “Well, yeah, you got me there. I’ll call before you leave to make sure everything’s arranged.”
As soon as I hung up with Angela I set about making plans for her trip. For anyone else, I would have handed this off to Mary, but for this trip, I wanted to do it myself. I called our travel coordinator, Anita Giles, directly.
“Hello, may I speak to Ms. Giles, please?”
“May I tell her who’s calling?”
“This is Darryl Bridges.”
Click. I found myself listening to the dial tone.
I sighed as I dialed the number again. When the same woman answered, I burst out with, “Look, before you hang up on me again, maybe you should go ask Ms. Giles if Darryl Bridges is one of her clients.”
In a matter of seconds, another voice came on the line. “Mr. Bridges?”
“Hi, this is Anita Giles. I apologize for my assistant. She’s new and didn’t know you were one of our clients.”
“No problem, Ms. Giles, or may I call you Anita?”
“Certainly, Mr. Bridges.”
“Then you have to call me Darryl. Listen, I know you normally coordinate our travel plans with Mary, but there’s a special trip I need you to book, for a special friend, so I thought I would call you personally.”
“My pleasure to be of service, Mr.…ah, Darryl. Actually, to tell you the truth, I’m thrilled both professionally and personally to speak directly to you.”
I chuckled at that. “Thanks, Anita.”
“Now, how may I be of help?”
“I have a friend who will be visiting me here in LA from the metro Detroit area this coming weekend.”
“Very good. And his name?”
Here we go again. “Her name is Angela Delaney.”
“Oh. I see.” I had the feeling she really did see.
I proceeded to give her Angela’s contact information. “Anita, I’d certainly appreciate it if you called my guest personally.”
“The flight should be first class, of course. In fact, Anita, I’d like everything about this trip to be first class. Which is the best of the local hotels?”
“Well, there are several top-drawer hotels, but I’d say the Regal is the best.”
“Fine. I’d like her to have their largest suite. Of course, you’ll have the hotel bill settled before her arrival, and I’d like a credit on the account, say five thousand dollars, in case she wants to charge stuff to her suite.”
“Five thousand dollars?” she echoed.
“Yes. Or maybe that’s not enough? What do you think? Should I make it more?”
“Uh, no, Darryl. I think that should be quite adequate.”
“Okay. I need you to arrange a limo for transportation to and from the airport in Detroit. I’ll take care of her being picked up at LAX and other transportation while she’s here. I guess that’s about it. Oh, I almost forgot. Please order an additional American Express card on my account, and have her issued a Black Card.”
Anita audibly gulped. “Uh…a Black Card, Darryl? Are you sure that’s the one you want her to have? I mean, of course, you know…” she gave me a somewhat nervous laugh, “the Black Card has no limit. A man once charged 170 million dollars to one for a painting!”
“Yes, I’m sure. I want to rule out any possibility of her running into hold-ups with credit limits and stuff in case she wants to buy something.”
I sensed apprehension in Anita’s subsequent silence.
“Anita, I know you’re concerned for me, and I appreciate it. But I have total confidence in Mrs. Delaney using the card properly.”
“Mrs. Delaney?” she involuntarily blurted out.
“Yes.” The pause was so awkward I felt obliged to add, “Ah, she’s a widow.”
“Oh. I see,” Anita repeated.
I called Angela the next day to make sure she’d been contacted.
“Yes, Dare,” Angie said, “a courier delivered my plane ticket and boarding pass for the eleven a.m. flight non-stop to LA. And I’m pre-registered for Suite 1801 at the Los Angles Regal. Darryl, I’m just bowled over! Thank…”
“No,” I interrupted her, “thank you…for coming.”
Angie asked what types of clothing she should bring.
I told her, “Just casual stuff—jeans and whatnot. The weather is predicted to be in the low eighties and sunny while you’re here.”
The following day was the day before the concert. We had a full dress rehearsal with light and sound checks along the way. A couple of numbers had to be re-staged to incorporate the references to Homes, USA.
I didn’t get home until after 11 o’clock. I wanted to call Angela, but it was after two AM her time and I didn’t want to wake her, especially since I knew she had to get an early start. I was planned to stay up, to call her early, but I fell asleep. I woke up with a start, glad to find it wasn’t too late to call Angela before she left.
“Dare! It must be the middle of the night there.”
“Yeah,” I had to smother a yawn. “I was going to call you when I got home after rehearsal yesterday, but it was two in the morning, your time, and I didn’t want to wake you. Then I fell asleep. I just woke up. Glad I caught you before you left. Everything set?”
“Yep. I’m all packed. I was just about to hop into the shower.”
“Well, go ahead and get dressed. Somebody will call you at the hotel about the concert arrangements. I will myself if I can get away.”
“All right.” She paused, “Uh…will I see you tonight, after the concert?”
“What? Of course! I’ll have someone bring you to my dressing room, okay?”
“Okay, Dare. Well…see you soon.”
” ‘Bye…have a good flight.”
Angela was on her way!
There are two sides to every story! Book 1 of The SuperStar Series is “All For Love,” which tells Darryl and Angela’s love story exclusively from her point of view. It’s their romance, but he sees it his way and she sees it her way!